Specialized surgery avoids colostomy––Mercy Medical Center

Specialized surgery avoids colostomy

Mercy Medical Center, Linn County LIVING WELL Magazine

A chance meeting in the hallway at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids made all the difference in Helen Secrist’s quality of life. As Helen says, “It was a good coincidence.”

Helen, 88, lives near the Matsell Bridge Natural Area and receives her healthcare in nearby Anamosa, where she was diagnosed with colon cancer and a colostomy was recommended. Helen was resigned to having the procedure and wearing a “colostomy bag,” with her waste diverted to an external pouch attached to her abdomen. A hard-working farm wife, Helen simply accepted the fact she’d wear the bag for the rest of her life.

In the meantime, Helen’s brother and sister-in-law, Bob and Jan Kazimour, are longtime Mercy supporters and encouraged Helen to visit Mercy and bring along her CT results. While at Mercy, the three of them ran into Dr. Timothy Quinn, president of MercyCare Community Physicians. Also passing by was Dr. Vincent Reid, medical director of Oncologic Surgery at Mercy’s Hall-Perrine Cancer Center.

As they exchanged pleasantries, Helen told the physicians about her upcoming surgery for colon cancer and shared her CT results. Dr. Reid told Helen he was pretty sure he could do the surgery and avoid a colostomy.

Two weeks later Dr. Reid performed a specialized surgical procedure that allowed Helen to live out her life without the hindrance of a colostomy bag. Fellowship-trained at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Dr. Reid is the first fellow-trained oncologic surgeon in Cedar Rapids.

“I was so glad when he said no colostomy,” says Helen, who also is grateful for Dr. Reid’s specialized training.

Dr. Reid explains, starting with Helen’s initial diagnosis: “She presented to her primary care physician with anemia. There was a questionable mass at the time of examination, so she had a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis. She had two colon masses, one in the left colon and one in the right colon. A biopsy confirmed our suspicion of synchronous cancers.

“I performed a total abdominal colectomy with ileo-rectal anastomosis. This involved removal of the entire colon and reconnecting the small bowel to the rectum, thereby allowing for normal bowel movements.

“Multiple lymph nodes were removed with one lymph node showing evidence of metastatic disease.  Based on her risk of recurrence and age, she did not get chemotherapy. She has done well since surgery,” says Dr. Reid.

Other than avoiding carbonated drinks and some diet modifications, her life has returned to normal and she’s back on her farm enjoying all the wildlife. “I come from a family of long live-ers,” she says proudly.

With a smile, Helen says, “Dr Reid tells me I’ll never die of colon cancer––I can’t, it’s all gone!”

But she can’t help but think she probably would never have been in this situation if she’d had a colonoscopy. “Be sure and have a colonoscopy––especially after age 50 or whatever your doctor tells you. I’ve never had one. If I’d had one I probably wouldn’t have ended up with cancer,” says Helen. “There for a while, I’d tell everyone I saw to have a colonoscopy.”

Dr. Reid recommends having a colonoscopy every 10 years, beginning at age 50, for individuals with average risk for colon cancer.

Fate led Helen Secrist to meet Dr. Vincent Reid, medical director of Oncology Surgery at Hall-Perrine Cancer Center, while she was at Mercy Medical Center with her brother and sister-in-law, Bob and Jan Kazimour, longtime Mercy supporters.